Laser reseller accuses Biolase of coercion

By Kathy Kincade, Editor in Chief

August 25, 2008 -- National Laser Technology (NLT) -- which claims to be the largest reseller of Biolase products in the world -- filed a lawsuit on August 20 against Biolase Technology, the largest manufacturer of dental lasers in the world, alleging unfair competition and coercion.

NLT has been selling used and refurbished Biolase products since 2006.

According to NLT's complaint, Biolase has a market share of more than 85% and uses its monopoly position to coerce dentists into purchasing products from Biolase at double the price offered by NLT. The suit alleges that, as part of a campaign to put NLT out of business, Biolase threatens dentists by refusing to sell them laser tips and other necessary products if the dentists do business with NLT.

"The threat not to sell any laser tips is particularly significant given that Biolase exclusively manufactures these tips and other parts that are necessary for the operation of a Biolase hard-tissue dental laser," the complaint states. "Accordingly, if a dentist cannot purchase such products, that dentist's laser can no longer be used. These threats have resulted in dentists agreeing to not purchase any NLT product or service, and Biolase intended this result."

NLT's complaint also asserts that Biolase has made false and misleading statements to dentists about NLT's products, and backs this up with a series of specific examples. In case after case, the complaint states, dentists from all over the U.S. have told NLT the same thing: that each time the Biolase sales rep in their area found out the dentist was considering purchasing a laser from NLT, the rep told them they would be "cut off" or "precluded" from buying any future Biolase products or services if they did.

"The allegations we filed in the complaint have become more and more widespread," NLT CEO Alan Miller told "People have been coming to us for years telling us they did not purchase from us because of what they were told by Biolase, but it is the sheer number of people coming forward now that is validating this, and that prompted us to take this action at this time."

In response to the lawsuit, Biolase issued a press release stating that the company believes the allegations are "frivolous and without merit."

"We cannot guarantee the safety, effectiveness, or regulatory compliance of any used Biolase laser sold or modified by third parties, and we will continue to work hard to protect dentists and patients, which is of the utmost importance to us," CEO Jake St. Philip stated in the press release. Calls made to Biolase for additional comment were not returned.

The complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages that could be "well into the eight figures," according to Miller. The complaint also requests a preliminary and permanent injunction barring Biolase from engaging in any further anticompetitive conduct, making false and misleading statements, and retaliating against NLT.

"I think this is truly a case of David versus Goliath," Miller said. "We are a small, privately owned business trying to do good things for the dental industry and the patients. And it is the patients having to pay double the price and the dentists who can't afford double the price who are suffering the most."

Copyright © 2008

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